Animals Falling Sick, Dying Near Hellish Ohio Train Derailment Site, Locals Claim

'We basically nuked a town with chemicals'
By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
February 13, 2023Updated: February 16, 2023

Animals are falling sick or dying near the train derailment and chemical fire in East Palestine, Ohio, according to reports, which has sparked fears of more widespread impacts.

Taylor Holzer, owner of a farm just outside the evacuation zone near the fire, told WKBN that several animals that he keeps on his property became ill. Some developed a range of symptoms, including liquid diarrhea and puffy faces.

“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast,” Holzer told the outlet of one of his animals. “Smoke and chemicals from the train, that’s the only thing that can cause it, because it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere,” he added. “The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals … or people.”

Authorities have said the train was carrying highly toxic vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, and other hazardous materials before it derailed. The Norfolk Southern Railroad train derailed while it was heading to Pennsylvania on Feb. 3.

Professor Kevin Crist, the director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center, said that vinyl chloride is carcinogenic, causing cancer of the liver and other organs.

“Breathe those in under heavy concentrations, and it’s really bad for you,” Crist told ABC News. “It’s like an acid mist. It’s not something that you want to be around in high concentrations.”

One woman, a North Lima resident, claimed some of her chickens died in recent days.

“My video camera footage shows my chickens were perfectly fine before they started this burn, and as soon as they started the burn, my chickens slowed down and they died,” Amanda Breshears of North Lima, Ohio, told ABC27. “If it can do this to chickens in one night, imagine what it’s going to do to us in 20 years.”

There were also claims of fish dying in waterways in or near East Palestine. A local environmental official confirmed fish die-offs in reports last week.

“Leslie Run comes out of East Palestine and that goes into Bull Creek, which then goes into North Fork. And we know for sure that there has been some fish kill in Leslie Run and Bull Creek, and some portions of the North Fork,” Matthew Smith, assistant regional scenic river manager for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, told WKBN.

The fire was set as part of a “controlled release” to avoid a tanker failure that could have set off an explosion, authorities have said. But one local hazardous materials expert expressed reservations about the idea.

Referring to reports of dead animals, Environmental Protection Agency official James Justice told news outlets that his agency has been conducting constant air-monitoring tests in the area. They found that no toxic threats have been monitored in the area, while residents were told it’s safe to return home, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 2023. (Dustin Franz/AFP via Getty Images)

But some locals in East Palestine told The Washington Post that they’ve suffered deleterious health effects after returning home. One of them, Maura Todd, said she and family members experienced headaches and nausea this week. Now, she wants to move away.

“I’ve watched every news conference and I haven’t heard anything that makes me think that this is a data-driven decision,” Todd, 44, told the outlet. “We don’t feel like we have a whole lot of information.”

Another resident, who was not identified, said, “I don’t want to take my kids back to that,” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “None of us have the money to completely start over somewhere. We’re not going to have a choice but to take our children back to that place, and it’s not fair.”


Responding to those animal die-off reports, Kurt Kollar with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Response, said in a news conference that those claims are being monitored.

“We knew at the onset of this incident there was impact to Sulfur Creek and waters of the state of Ohio. Since that point in time, we have been able to successfully control that runoff and contain the water and either treat it in place, along with a robust sampling program for the water quality,” Kollar said.

In a news release, the EPA wrote that it is continuing to monitor the air quality around East Palestine.

“Air monitoring since the fire went out has not detected any levels of concern in the community that can be attributed to the incident at this time. For example, there have been some exceedances of PM2.5 screening values, but those are both upwind and downwind of the derailment site so likely had another cause,” it said on Feb. 12. “Residents may still smell odors from the site. If you experience symptoms, Columbiana County Health Department recommends calling your medical provider.”

‘Nuked a Town’

“We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open,” said Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, in an interview with WKBN over the weekend, referring to the controlled burn.

Other than vinyl chloride—used to manufacture PVC—Caggiano noted that the train had ethylhexyl acrylate on board. The substance is not only carcinogenic, but it can cause burning and irritation in the skin and eyes, coughing, and shortness of breath.

train derail cleanup
The continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 9, 2023. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

“I was surprised when they quickly told the people they can go back home, but then said if they feel like they want their homes tested they can have them tested. I would’ve far rather they did all the testing,” Caggiano told the media outlet.

Down the road, there might be surges in cancer rates near East Palestine, he noted.

“There’s a lot of what ifs, and we’re going to be looking at this thing 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, you know, well water could go bad,” Caggiano said.

The Epoch Times has contacted the EPA for comment.